Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rejection Letters and Submission Fees: Doing Our Job

Few people in the position to select manuscripts for publication expect to earn the goodwill of the many more whose writings they decline. Rejection may become routine for writers, but it never feels routine. It never should. If it always stings, though, shouldn't there be some balm that's equally common? Apparently there is not.

What is a writer to do with a rejection letter? This problem is embedded in the standard process of submission. If one still submits on paper, s/he can always recycle returned pages in a fresh envelope, affix new stamps in the correct amount and send it off anew. If it's on an electronic submissions site, upload and get out the debit card.

If the writer wants to improve her chances at publication, it's hard to know what to do. Who knows why the manuscript was declined? Writers are rarely told a thing. Like a child whose parents are free to tell them only that, "No means No!" the author is infantilized by the publisher whose authority is equally absolute and baffling. Shall s/he revise? Is the work deficient? Or did an intern nix it before an editor laid eyes on it? 

Few writers learn much as the result of rejection. "Good luck with your career." "We receive more submissions than we can possibly publish." Did they read it, one aches to know.

For writers to be denied useful or revealing comment on their submissions speaks to irresponsible practices of publishers, whether we are asking for fees or not. Upper Hand Press asks for a $10 reading fee, and there are people who complain that this is not nice. Poets & Writers takes a position against this, but they do not have a position that suggests that publishers owe writers anything for the chance to read their work. 

Surely one reason editors can't comment to writers is the common practice of allowing multiple submissions: They are swamped. Writers too often submit indiscriminately despite publishers' requests that they do their homework before launching a barrage of manuscripts. 

Upper Hand requires exclusive submissions, and this undoubtedly limits our numbers for the good. From time to time we receive submissions that are very evidently shotgun efforts. I return these. If I am mistaken, the writer can always correct me, but so far no one has.  

It was with the deepest gratitude, then, and a sense that we are doing our job well that we received an email from a poet this week, directing us to a new, two-part post on her blog. In Gifted, Sheryl tells about meeting with me for drinks and discussion after Upper Hand Press had rejected her manuscript. 

While Sheryl writes about the things she learned through her contact with me, she can't write about the great value our meeting had for me. How often do publishers get to speak with the writers who approach them, to sound out their motives, why they wrote as they did, to discover the nature of their minds, where they see themselves coming from and going as artists, how writing fits into their lives as whole people. Such a discussion gives me more knowledge, more experience, and more empathy. It makes me a better, more sensitive editor and publisher. And it gives me a friend and writer to follow.

Sheryl's two posts, Gifted and Gifted (Continued) are gifts to me and to Upper Hand Press: We're doing what we set out to do. Thank you Sheryl!

Ann Starr

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for giving us the chance to consider on resignationdocument. A form letter of resignation is easy to spot. This may be a generic note and short, writing is a business and writers must remember that managers have nothing against them personally. Managers of literary journals have different interests and tastes, which is why writers should learn what they can from resignation letters and then keep submitting to find the manager will love their work. Now the time is changed, everything is converting online, a person can submit his resignation letter via online. Technology changed over life just like online education. Professionals can get education through online and earn life experience degrees without submitting or quitting their jobs.